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Coffee Can Help Reduce Breast Cancer Risk: Study

May 11, 2011

Drinking five cups of coffee a day has been shown to reduce the chance of women over the age of 50 of getting breast cancer by 20 percent, a new study published in the journal Breast Cancer Research concludes.

The team of researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden discovered the effect was even greater with incidence rates reduced by half for coffee drinkers compared with non-coffee drinkers, The Telegraph reports.

The study looked at the medical records of nearly 5,000 women over the age of 50, roughly half of which had a history of breast cancer. A 20 percent overall reduction in risk of getting breast cancer was found in those that consumed more than 5 cups of coffee.

Researchers said they were unsure as to the exact reasons why but earlier studies have suggested that it could be because it is high in antioxidants. When screened for different types of cancer, researchers found the largest reduction in ER-negative cancer of 57 percent. ER-negative cancer is rare but it is also very hard to treat.

Research Professor Per Hall tells BBC News: “We were surprised. But the result was clear. When we looked more closely the more aggressive form of cancer – the estrogen-receptor negative – was reduced by over half, meaning half as many women who drank lots of coffee were diagnosed with this cancer.”

But he said what is not clear is why coffee might be having this effect. “We just don’t know what might be behind this association. There are so many different compounds in coffee that it could be any one of them that could be having an effect.”

Other issues that need to be researched: are women reliably recalling how much coffee they drink, and there is no record of what type of coffee they consumed – espressos, cappuccinos or decaf?

Yinka Ebo of Cancer Research UK, tells BBC News: “This study does not provide firm evidence that drinking lots of coffee can help reduce the risk of breast cancer as it relied on people with cancer remembering how much coffee they drank years ago.”

“Previous research on coffee consumption and breast cancer risk has produced mixed results, and the authors of this new study acknowledge that further work will be needed to confirm the findings.”

He said there was good evidence, however, that women who are physically active, consume little or no alcohol and keep a healthy weight after the menopause are at lower risk of breast cancer.

Each year 45,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer, a third of whom will go on to die from the disease.

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